Jirí Orten’s – A Small Elegy, translated by Lynn Coffin
My friends have left. Far away, my darling is asleep.
Outside, it’s as dark as pitch.
I’m saying words to myself, words that are white
in the lamplight and when I’m half-asleep I begin
to think about my mother. Autumnal recollection.
Really, under the cover of winter, it’s as if I know
everything–even what my mother is doing now.
She’s at home, in the kitchen. She has a small child’s stove
toward which the wooden rocking horse can trot,
she has a small child’s stove, the sort nobody uses today, but
she basks in its heat. Mother. My diminutive mom.
She sits quietly, hands folded, and thinks about my father,
who died years ago.
And then she is skinning fruit for me. I am in
the room. Sitting right next to her. You’ve got to see us,
God, you bully, who took so much. How
dark it is outside! What was I going to say?
Oh, yes, now I remember. Because
of all those hours I slept soundly, through calm
nights, because of all those loved ones who are deep
in dreams–Now, when everything’s running short,
I can’t stand being here by myself. The lamplight’s too strong.
I am sowing grain on the headland.
I will not live long.